Freedom, self-care, joy, water, splashing, prioritize

©Angela Howell

Is compulsive behavior robbing you of joy? Do you say, “That’s it! I’m NOT going to do this anymore!” Or, “Starting tomorrow, I am going to do THIS every day!” But then the next time you’re faced with the choice, you act against your intentions? I believe we all have specific areas in our lives where we struggle to do those things—or NOT do those things— which keep us true to ourselves. Some of the things we try to do or not do may include: diet, exercise, smoking, biting fingernails, drug or alcohol use, participating in unhealthy relationships, getting enough rest, standing up to unrealistic demands by our boss or our family, letting worry consume our thoughts, spending or managing money responsibly, cruising social media sites when we really need to be doing something else, and many other daily “habits.”

We repeat self-destructive behavior again and again. Sometimes we switch vices or compulsive behavior/non-behaviors, but the end result is the same. All these unintentional behaviors performed (or not performed) repeatedly over time can leave us feeling so shameful that we no longer feel we made a mistake, but that we are a mistake. We become filled with self-hatred and self-doubt, lacking self trust and short on hope that we can ever act in a way that reflects our true desires. How could we possibly allow the greatness we have inside us to be fully expressed with that dark cloud constantly hovering over a corner of our life?

When I prioritize me, I will be free! Too often, we are told to put others first. Care and compassion for others are great attributes to possess until they get out of proportion and lead to self-abandonment and self-neglect. Part of us knows we’re doing this to ourselves and we rebel! The abandoned-self fights back to get our attention. Just like some children resort to acting out as the only way they know to get attention, part of us starts looking for ways to sabotage our happiness in order to get our attention. That part isn’t getting authentic expression so it needs an outlet, a release, or a vice. Compulsive behaviors only provide a temporary escape though, leaving us with the original problem of self-abandonment, compounded now with shame and self-loathing. It becomes a vicious cycle. We act out again and again and have a temporary escape from feeling bad, but we ultimately feel worse so we do it again, still seeking relief.

The only way I have ever been successful at breaking these destructive cycles is by making one seemingly insignificant decision to make a different choice, while praying for help to be relieved of the compulsion and to see through the seductive lie that doing this/not doing this will “fix me.” I’m not vowing forever, just one right choice in that moment. Strangely enough, one right action can give me just enough of a self-esteem boost to make another right decision. All the while I’m reminding myself what I really want, what I really value, and what my true intentions are for my life and day-to-day living.

With each small, seemingly insignificant decision, self trust begins to come back. Self-respect starts to return. All of me begins to rise up, united again in purpose and intention. The greatness inside me can be more freely expressed without the shackles of shame holding me back. When I prioritize me, I will be free! Cheers to your inner freedom today allowing full expression of all the goodness—the Godness, the greatness—inside you!

Make a list of the many parts of you who need expression. Perhaps a dancer, a painter, a creator, a lover, an angry teenager, a humanitarian, a wild and reckless adventure seeker, someone who likes to build things, a curious wanderer. How can you treat them to safe expression today? Are there some parts of you who just need to be heard and acknowledged? Deep in a hidden corner of your soul, maybe you have some loneliness, sadness, disappointment, envy, anger or grief? These are all valued parts of you. If ignored, they may eventually rebel in an attempt to get your attention, or you may continue to experience an un-named longing, or a sense of unfulfillment.

When we honor and acknowledge all parts of us, we love ourselves more fully and have much more to offer the world around us and the people we care about. Acceptance is key. You cannot reject a part of you without consequence anymore than you can cut off a limb and not miss it. I used to wish away the parts of myself I didn’t like. With fantasy scissors, I would cut those parts out of my life forever. Now I have learned to recognize and acknowledge those parts of me. They are valid. They need to be heard. It doesn’t mean I act upon every whim, it just means I listen to my needs and I provide nurturing and reassurance to the fearful, rebellious, reckless, angry, naïve, etc. etc. voices inside. I offer comfort to the scared little girl. I acknowledge the angry teenager and provide a way for her safe expression. I can encourage the young adult in me, who still feels like she’s trying to find her way in a big world. Tuned in to all of me, I offer guidance, wisdom and parenting as needed. Most of all, I offer love and acceptance to all the many wonderful parts of me.

When I prioritize me, I will be free! Today, I hope you will stop to listen and say hello to all the valuable parts of you, so you, too, can take good care of your “selves” and learn to be free!